Recent Entries in Marketing

In a walk to grab coffee with Mike, I starting thinking about how much I was looking forward to tonight's new episode of 30 Rock.  It hadn't occurred to me that it might actually be a repeat; I just got it in my head that Thursday = 30 Rock = likely a new episode.

My brain-wires had apparently shorted and took itself back to 10 years ago, when we used to rush home on specific days at specific times so we didn't miss TV.  (This fuse was particularly suitable to the mid-90's stranglehold NBC had had on Thursday nights.)  Today with our DVR's, who rushes home for broadcasts?  Let the show wait for us, we say!

And yet there are still shows that resonate so deeply that you can't help but need the most immediate consumption possible.  I actually could wait a night for new 30 Rock's.  But in this recent last season of Battlestar Galactica?  Not a chance.  My fiance & Gossip Girl: night of; it's practically a law.  My mom recently got a DVR and records about 98% of all television, and yet new Grey's Anatomy is a reason to leave Thursday nights commitment-less.

In a period of time-less television (as in scheduling, certainly not in terms of quality), we still find ourselves the occasional slave to programming.  Even online versions of broadcast shows has us calculating viewings on the fly.  And in this period, the networks cry foul: if viewers timeshift, ad revenue plummets.

Woe is the channel with slightly less money.

But if networks had such compelling content that viewers couldn't help but have to be a part of the most exclusive event possible - watching it live - then when the first ad block hits, there's no future for the DVR button to fast forward to: viewers are forced to watch.  (Or at least chat about the first segment. Or flip to another channel.  Or get up to pee.)  The music industry is finally adapting to this new digital model: abandon all hope of sales profits, and focus capitalization on singular, non-repeatable experiences.

I remember Battlestar Galacticas last seasons' episodes far more than the earlier ones because they were the most compelling.  To the point where I can even recall the ad campaigns run during that time.  (Nerd alert, in 3... 2... 1...) On a Friday night, I wanted nothing more than to get home, open a beer, hit the couch, and utterly consume the final episodes.  In a way, today, I can say, "I was there".

In this era of timeshifting, on-demand, and endless content, you better give us something truly compelling - addictive even - if you expect us to stop blogging, creating videos, or rocking the plastic guitar.
A few weeks ago, during a conversation about re-branding, a very smart, very fun friend said the following:

"I hate advertising, but I love marketing."

Here are some great visuals that contrast the two areas (also available as .pdf), discovered in a quick Google search for "advertising marketing difference": 
marketing_vs_advertising.gifOversimplified, yes, but very much on point.  Where marketing simply attempts to get a message across to consumers, advertising is almost entirely self-serving and rarely gives much of anything to consumers; at least not anything real or long-lasting.  Marketing - good marketing - focuses on building up a brand, which appropriately evokes a positive, mutually beneficial system, whereas traditional and even newer, cleverer advertising techniques tend to be purely disruptive.

This is not to say marketing is immune to criticism, or that all of advertising should be eradicated.  But if we think of the two as resting on opposite ends of the same balance scale, trends show marketing dominating, carrying much more weight as substantively more effective with consumers, and thus a much more effective market for the future.  In all likelihood, 2008 will be known as the last year in which advertising as we knew it existed and (barely) thrived, and 2009 as the first year of a potential rebirth.  No one can be sure if there will actually be any real adaptation, because again, looking back at the last few years, advertisers have not integrated well into new systems.  (Simply uploading your TV spot to YouTube does not, a viral phenomenon or digital strategy, make.)

Exemplifying the decline of advertising we need only look at the current state of two of media's most coveted channels: newspapers and television.  Newspapers circulation and advertising revenue are in catastrophic declines, and, likely escalated by the global financial crisis, in the last month of 2008 are beginning to collapse entirely.  There is little surprise; newspapers' death knoll had been declared years ago, in the midst of the first internet bubble.  Nonetheless, they collectively represent an aged institution, with an inability to truly innovate and adapt to revolutionary trends.

Television has now also found itself in a similar quandary.  With the rise of time-shifting, ad-skipping digital recordings, executives are sweating and the voices are crying out to transform old models into something more adept for the predictable future.  After all, television began as an advertising channel with content simply sprinkled in almost as an afterthought.  Over time, it's since tweaked the levels and structure of sponsorship communication, but the vessel's business model remains largely untouched, and almost entirely unprepared for the challenge it faces now.

Today, in this digital age, consumers are not only empowered, but they've become incredibly savvy, and with intense message filtration.  Offline, they have forgone purchasing tangible newspapers, shut out print advertisements, and are literally skipping TV commercials.  Online, they are blind to banners, deaf to ads.  By no stretch of the imagination should a  0.5% click-through rate be considered a success; it is a 99.5% failure.  Even American League pitchers at bat are held to a higher standard.

Marketing digitally, which stems more from a real function of communication, is evidence of adaptation in an ever-changing environment.  Brands need only to leverage channels and tools available for communicating (softly), to outreach to - not yell at - their consumers, and to constructively build themselves up.  Include a modest amount of advertising, sure, but be overly cautious with ad spending.  Focus on organic growth and cultivating real relationships with consumers.  Build the foundation and create passionate brand ambassadors.

The digital world is thriving because of marketing, not advertisements.  If the internet had a sign at the entrance, it would read: Turn away, advertising, for ye have no purpose here.
Every so often, we as a global internet community are blessed with an amazing flaming debacle of a failure of a campaign.  A company takes its ad people, sit around together, circled around a singular concept, and begin drinking pitchers and pitchers of their own branded conceptual Kool-Aid and they don't stop 'til it comes to life.  Occasionally, someone stops drinking, speaks up, and the concept dies a deserved death and the company is spared potential humiliation.  Today, Motrin was not so lucky.

If you haven't already seen the ad, spend 43 seconds and catch up:

They're obviously trying to be a little "edgy".  And I'll be honest: of all badvertisments, this one is not that bad.  But it's not my singular, off-target opinion that matters.  It's the hundreds of thousands of moms that they've targeted with a supposedly humorous message about what a pain carrying their newborn babies can be.  Their selfish, selfish babies.

Well, that community has spoken, and rather quickly.  Motrin has since pulled the campaign from it's site (after having been down for half the day today), posted an apology, and the web continues to stay lit up; blog posts abound, and a Twitter storm to boot.  (It's been moving so fast, there's already a backlash to the backlash.)

Hubbub aside, here are two key learnings for brands, to avoid this kind of disaster in their future digital marketing:

1. Motrin was clearly not being authentic.

I'm sure multiple people involved on the campaign - both from Motrin and Taxi NY (the creative agency behind the marketing) - are mothers.  And I'm 98% sure they all love their kids very much.  But they made the assumption that if they created a profile type - hip n' snarky mom - and tried to rally their consumer base around this one tiny, private truth (I mean, really; carrying kids probably does cause some aches and pains), that the people would follow.  So again, while the ad may speak some truth, Motrin is not authentically representing the greater  population, and thus, the population revolted.

2. Online, there is such a thing as bad viral.

Take a look at this pitch-perfect flowchart for assessing whether your video is "viral" or not.  (Because you can't make a viral video; videos go viral, or they don't.)  What it doesn't take into consideration however is whether your now-viral video is being perceived positively or negatively by the masses.  The ratio of good viral videos to bad viral videos on the internet is pretty lopsided, in a good way.  But ultimately, and before the age of the internets, the word 'viral' had carried a negative connotation - as in, viruses - which is being resurrected by the Motrin ads, and other negative marketing attempts like it.

The positive takeaway from this whole mess is the reminder to brands and content creators that content is still king.  Muck up your creative online and it'll spread like wildfire  ...but with terrible wildfire-like consequences.